2021 has gotten off to a tremendous start with a unique partnership between London South East Colleges (@LSEColleges) and the @OxleasNHS Foundation Trust. The College was recently chosen to help recruit and train a workforce capable of delivering the biggest and most ambitious immunisation programme of our time.

The first cohort of 250 students have now completed an initial intensive programme of training, focussing on employability skills, CV writing, presentation, good verbal and written communications and much more as we aim to provide Oxleas with a highly capable, enthusiastic and competent pool of applicants to fill much needed roles in a range of disciplines.

The College quickly assembled a team of six tutors and three support staff to implement the training last November and to devise a series of modules that could be studied and assessed online. So far, we have received over 600 applicants from a wide range of people who are hoping to play important supporting roles during this historic rollout.

One of our tutors, Rachel Bailey-Hogg, has been working to ensure the students are equipped with the relevant knowledge and skills needed to apply with confidence for roles that include administration and customer services as well as frontline clinical staff.

Rachel says: “I’m very proud to be a member of the team delivering this training. Last year, during the first lockdown, I was very eager to play my part helping to get the country through the pandemic and volunteered, using my sewing skills, to help produce extra scrubs, face masks and other PPE items to send to NHS staff dealing with the outbreak. Being involved in training students to take part in the UK’s vaccination programme is something I see as an extension of that.

“The four-week training programme is intensive and each student is expected to demonstrate their competencies around a number of core skills required to work in a very fast-paced and demanding environment. To be successful, each will have to be self-motivated, articulate and aware, excellent communicators, good at problem solving and mediation and above all customer-focussed.

“So far, I’m very pleased with the quality of candidates we have seen and believe that we can help them into many of the vacancies on offer. Many have been affected personally by the Covid19 pandemic; from losing loved ones to the disease, being furloughed or facing redundancy to simply wanting to join our wonderful NHS.”

Two students hoping to gain work over the coming weeks are Asma and Sarah. Both have recently become unemployed due to the pandemic but see this as an opportunity to make a crucial career change and give something back to their communities.

Asma studied and worked in the field of software engineering and quality assurance before moving into an educational management role. Her career, however, took a blow when she found herself facing redundancy last October. Determined not to be thrown into turmoil, the 40-year-old from Lewisham decided it was time to pursue a more satisfying career in the NHS.

Asma says: “I decided to turn a negative into a positive and look for an opportunity to move into something I would find gratifying - and a job that I could feel proud of doing, something that would be beneficial to others as well as myself.

“I first came across London South East Colleges and this training when I attended an online NHS careers event back in November. The College was taking part and I watched and listened to a gentleman called Neil who told us of a number of forthcoming opportunities to enlist suitably qualified professionals into a range of career pathways such as IT services, medical support, social care, administration and management, maintenance and facilities as well as the more traditional roles such as nursing and health care. By early December, I was enrolled and ready to get started.

“The course has been excellent and I’ve particularly enjoyed the tutor’s willingness to go above and beyond to help us. It has been a very positive and energising experience from start to finish. Recently I have been doing voluntary work as a steward at two local vaccination clinics and this has only added to the feeling of exhilaration I have right now. It’s very hard work but highly rewarding.

“From here on, I will be applying for roles within the NHS knowing I have been given the extra tools and support to get started in a new career line. I would love to be chosen to take part in the vaccination programme and help make a difference to people’s lives.”

Sarah, 42 from south London, also has a professional background in IT and has worked mainly in IT services management in the charity sector. It was just a couple of months before the first UK lockdown that she decided to change career and leave her last place of work in order to concentrate on applying for new positions.

Sarah says: “I needed to make some changes to my life and start making some positive moves. The pandemic has somewhat hampered my progress but just as I was starting to think I should have stayed put, along came the email I had been waiting for. The National Careers Service informed me of this course and I jumped at the opportunity immediately.

“Like Asma, I was inspired to join up after taking part in the NHS careers event attended by the College and felt that this could be my big opportunity. I have to say, the training has been a big eye-opener and covered a wide ranging list of topics such as GDPR rules and regulations, consumer rights, customer services as well as lots of other things that will initially tie in to the kind of jobs offered in the vaccine rollout and any other jobs within the NHS.

“The course most definitely exceeded my expectations and has filled me with confidence - something I really needed at this time. The tutors and practitioners gave us amazing support and insight. I hope to find work in either IT management or customer services. I know I may have to work my way up but looking at the bigger picture, especially in the current climate, I believe the NHS could open doors and present me with a wide range of different possibilities and options. I’m also excited about being able to make a difference and to be a part of the ongoing fight against Covid 19 with this huge immunisation operation.”

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